Musings on the Wild World of Writing & Editing

Posts tagged ‘cyberliteracy’

To Write, To Publish, To Blog

Blogging has three main uses: personal expression, professional development, and class crowdsourcing. Personal blogs are popular—sites like WordPress, tumblr, and Blogspot provide forums to express opinions, share information, and network with people who share similar interests. On these sites, you can “follow” users whose posts you like, and as the person blogs, their posts will be sent directly to your inbox. Bloggers can tag and categorize their posts so that other bloggers can find posts about their interests. Users receive feedback through comments, likes, and views, all available through the “site stats” on WordPress. The barriers to expression are low—regular accounts are free, and all one has to do is type and hit “publish.”

You can also use blogs for professional development. A person can build a professional website through WordPress, e.g. Paying for a domain name (mine would be $17/year) and professional options, job seekers can post resumes, professional headshots, sample work, biography information for potential employers to review. These options are particularly valuable for writers, musicians, and visual artists, who all benefit from being able to share their work online. Examples can be found at melsphotos.tumblr.com. spurriermusic.com, and katiegoodrich.com.

But most applicable to education and technology are course blogs. I have had at least three courses involving class blogs: two French classes and an English class. My English class required a certain number of blogs about our readings, then a certain number of responses to other writers’ posts. This system avoided the dread online forum/thread on so many eCollege courses. Students had more freedom in what they posted and how they posted. My first French course utilizing a blog (lebavard.wordpress.com) benefited from teaching students how to post, how to tag, how to categorize so that students had a rudimentary understanding of how to publish online while getting practice in French composition skills. The other course created benefits of crowdsourcing. Students are supposed to follow French news, but because the abundance of news through large media outlets (televised, articles, etc), no one student could possibly take in all the French news every day. So we each post one blog a week, and we each have a “beat”—mine is education, while others write about politics or health. This way, we all benefit from the collective research and media knowledge of others.

Although my Editing and Publishing course included a website at the end to which all students contributed, students received no practice in building a website, creating an account, or publishing online. Although organizing content was simplified, students lost the community feel of reading others’ posts and feeling like their own contributions mattered. With such low barriers to expression and how easily one can create an account, professors and teachers can use blogs to connect students. My teachers have primarily used one of two methods—1) invite students to become members of one blog or 2) ask students to post the link to their personal blog so that other students can visit, read, and comment.

Advertisements

Your Participation Grade

Writing has evolved tremendously over its 6,000 year history. No, I’m not talking about the evolution of language. I am not a diacrhonic linguist; I leave charting the changes and growth in language up to them. Writing has moved from carving on stone tablets to scratching on animal skin to using a quill and ink on parchment to ballpoint pens to the typerwriter to the computer. The ability to write (not just the spread of literacy) has grown exponentially because the technology of writing has so vastly improved. With graphite penciles, felt-tip and ballpoint pens, and the modern-day keyboard, the amount of time it takes to write out your thoughts has diminished vastly since writing’s inception. Back in the day, many writers employed a scribe who would write down what they said, because the process of writing out characters on a difficult surface was too time-consuming and diverted attention away from the words themselves. Today, many would-be writers face no such barriers. In fact, the barrier between writing and publication has practically shurnk to zero if you have a computer, a Internet connection, and a blog. At the end of writing this post, I will press “publish” and have shared my thoughts and writing with the world. All within an hour or less.

Seed magazine’s article, “A Writing Revolution” ( http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/a_writing_revolution/), charts the growth of authorship from 1400 to the present. Spoiler alert: the growthh as been exponential as Internet users tweet, post, and blog. Suddenly the spread of influence moves from how many people read your article/book in a sanctioned publication to anyone who stumbles upon your page. Everyone writes e-mails to groups, shares status updates on social networking sites, and posts videos and photographs of themselves. We live in what one might call a “participatory culture” (http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF) in which the ability to express and circulate one’s own work and thoughts is easy and simplified. Members of various groups (including wordpress) crowdsource information, learn from one another’s posts, and believe their contributions to the website’s content matters. Through these sites, people can share their writing easily and quickly. The standard roadblocks between composition and publication have all but disappeared so long as you have a will to write and feel encouraged to log in, type away, and hit “enter.” We follow one another’s blogs, subscribe to follow different users on facebook, etc. , so we believe that what we are writing and sharing is important, that others will read it and consider it.

This massive growth in influencing others through informal publishing is only an asset to encouraging the love of the written word. More and more as traditional writing and reading books is seen as too time-consuming and irrelevant, the explosion and outgrowth of personal publication is a way for budding writers and skeptical readers that the written word has concrete value. The fact that anyone can put their thoughts out their is a testament to how the world has simultaneously grown and shrunk as the global network becomes increasingly interconnected. Writing is the pleasure of transferring thought to word, and we are well to honor our literacy, both on paper and online.

Walks with a Dinosaur

To understand this post, you need to know something first: I’m twenty. I’ll be twenty-one very soon (a month and a half, not that I’m counting). I can’t legally drink or rent a car, but I already feel obsolete. I have a year and a half left of college, and I already feel behind the times. I recently read an article stating that children have little to no preference learning from e-readers than they do from actual hard copy print books. Comprehension-wise, as long as the story doesn’t have too many distractions through applications and games, children retain and comprehend books on e-readers just as well as print books. (For more info, check out these links: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/for-reading-and-learning-kids-prefer-e-books-to-print-books/ and http://www.marketwatch.com/story/study-finds-e-readers-equal-print-for-childrens-reading-comprehension-2012-01-11)

Fourth-grade children comprehend and remember e-books better than I do. I’m primarily a visual and kinesthetic learner, but with an important focus on the kinesthetic: I remember from writing things down, pointing to things on a visual page, remembering the location of a word in a book–left or right side of the pages; top, middle, or bottom of the page; beginning, middle, end of the book. As mentioned in an earlier post, I have a Kindle, and trust me, I’ll address that issue at a later date. But here’s my issue with reading from screens and e-readers:

I rarely remember books I read on the Kindle as well as I remember books that I read on print. Ask me to summarize a book I held in my hands and physically turned the page, and I have no problem relaying the story back to you. Ask me about a book I read on my Kindle, and I’ll be able to recall some of the major details, but not as clearly or concisely. So this technology has affected my reading. I lose the kinesthetic feel of where information is on a page, how it’s physically organized.

Reading from a computer screen is similar. Because there is no sense of spatial organization, I tend to skim. Scrolling pales in comparison to flipping a page, running your fingers over text, imprinting the memory of the image of the words onto your mind. You can’t interact as well with a screen as with a good old-fashioned print book. You can’t annotate; you can’t underline or highlight; you can’t bookmark or dog-ear pages.

I’m currently taking a cyberliteracy course where we’re trying to examine whether my generation’s preference for print is from habit and upbringing or from how humans must learn. Most of my peers, when assigned a reading online, print out the reading and use the hardcopy to underline and make notes. I do this. I just printed out a 55-page white paper on children learning through technology. I printed front-to-back, but I still took the time to print out 28 pages just so that I could read better. When we read from a computer, we skim. Reading from a computer requires bullets, shorter sentences, a get-to-the-point, hurry-it-up chase to the message. We tend to read the first few sentences of a web page then scroll quickly through the rest, so if you have something important to say, say it at the top of the page.

I think the preference for print is probably from habit and taught modes of learning. Students learn to take notes physically, to annotate books for class, to read from hard-copy textbooks. I had the option of buying an e-textbook for significantly less than the print version, but I sprung for the print version just because I knew I wasn’t going to remember an e-book as well as the print version. It’s the way I learned, and I’m not going to break easily the surface, superficial learning I do from online sources. It’s going to take some time.

But back to my feeling old at a young age. Yes, my generation grew up learning to use computers and came of age during the myspace and Facebook revolutions, but we still learned primarily from a traditional pen-and-paper classroom setting. I have a feeling we’ll have trouble keeping up with students who are learning from computers, who will have more training in comprehending from a screen, who will (maybe) be better able to concentrate and control the distractions inherent in learning from a computer. I’m not sure I’ll fully be able to do this within the next few years. I feel obsolete and behind-the-times, and I’m still waiting for my twenty-first birthday.

%d bloggers like this: